By Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Thacker
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 17, 2009 - U.S. instructors are training Iraqi sailors how to operate a new, modern boat during a two-week course in Umm Qasr, a port city in southern Iraq. The sailors are learning engineering, preventive maintenance and basic seamanship for the Iraqi navy's ridged-hull inflatable boats. The instruction will help the sailors become more capable of securing Iraq's waterways and oil platforms, officials said. "These new boats are helpful for us in our territorial operations with their modern features," Iraqi navy Lt. j.g. Amgad E. Karem of the diving squadron said. "They are very fast, which is good for maneuvering on the sea. We have never had training like this before." The high-speed boats are capable of carrying .50-caliber MK19 or M60 machine guns. The boats can carry three crewmembers and up to five passengers.
The Iraqi navy will use the boats for patrols on the river and local gulf area, as well as for diving.
During the training, Timothy Wood, a U.S. instructor, demonstrated how to properly conduct preventive maintenance checks. Wood, a retired U.S. Navy boatman, travels around the world helping countries to outfit their waterway security teams.
During his pre-check demonstration, he explained how salt water can break down bearing lubricants and cause parts to stop working. To drive the point home to his students, he told a story about a team he once visited in another country that didn't perform all of its maintenance properly.
One of their crewmembers didn't inspect the trailer parts before leaving for a mission, he said. As the boat was pulled down the road, the trailer seized, causing the boat to flip and kill a civilian.
"It is your responsibility to plan for the mission," Wood said. "One step missed is equal to one person dead."
Once the familiarization training is complete, the
British Royal Navy will take over and train the Iraqi sailors on tactics and other advanced operating methods.
Umm Qasr is the only deepwater port in the country and acts as a gateway for commerce, distribution of oil and other goods in and out of Iraq. The port city sits at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab River, opens into the Persian Gulf, and borders both Kuwait and Iran.
(Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Thacker serves with Multinational Division Southeast.)